Thursday, June 14, 2012
Book Review: Gardening Without Work by Ruth Stout
Ruth Stout, (June 14, 1884-August 22, 1980), became a famed garden expert and lecturer. There are videos of her interviews. She is quite the character, and maverick of her time when it comes to going against standard farming practices.
The book is long on quaint writing (that listening to your grandma stuff), but a tad short on usable content. It is a delightful read if you just want to enjoy her, but if you want it for gardening information, I'll save you some time and money and tell you the basic jist that is repeated over and over again in this book:
MULCH with hay (she says hay but around here, straw seems to be more economical and easier to procure, so I'm not sure if one is preferable to another).
By mulching heavily in your garden you will retain moisture, minimize or eliminate weeding, discourage some types of insects, nourish the soil, encourage earthworm activity and keep the soil "friable" (ie, loose and workable).
For the most part, this is her message and her crusade. She spends a lot of time in the book recounting stories about how people have told her this was not a viable method for this or that reason. She's here to tell us that the proof is in the pudding. It works because she'd done it for over 35 years.
She doesn't till the soil either. She often throws her potatoes on the ground whole and then just covers them with mulch.
Another interesting tip she had for protecting maturing ears of corn from pests was to place a paper lunch bag and a rubber band over each one in the days just prior to harvest. Of course this won't work in huge gardens, but for the average person with not very many ears of corn, it could be useful.
She was gardening organically before it was vogue to do so. She never saw the reason to use poisons on her food.
She's a delight. Or was. R.I.P. Ruth.